The Bollywood star hopes that the story of Anita Narre, who shocked India by leaving her new husband because his home had no toilet, can inspire the country to tackle a sanitation crisis that blights the lives of millions

We need to change our minds about toilets. A woman from a small village in rural India, Anita Narre, shocked the nation when she left her husband two days after her wedding. But it wasn’t the speed of her decision that caused the astonishment; it was the reason. Outraged that her new home lacked a toilet, Narre refused to return until her husband built her one. Her story, which inspired my latest film, cuts to the very heart of one of the biggest crises facing my country today.

It wasn’t until I met Narre and other women like her that I understood the true scale of the issue. During my research for the film, I found out that half of India’s population – 564 million people – defecate in the open because they lack access to a toilet. But I didn’t know what this means for millions of women across the country. I had no idea about the fear these women experience every single time nature calls, or that so many women face assault and rape while going to the toilet outdoors.

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